Zero-Sum Bonus

After reading this article here, I can’t say I feel quite too bad for the so-called “Zeros.” People who are already making salaries in the range of six figures–excluding the decimal point– and do not receive a huge bonus to which they feel entitled when a majority of the population is far worse off will not receive my sympathy. I did recently write about a certain segment of the labor force not receiving bonuses, which you can read here.

Let’s take a closer examination at the compensation though. In order to “placate” regulators, the financial firms have already found a way to maintain the culture that measures “success and prestige with bonus size.” Instead of paying someone $300,000, Goldman Sachs will pay a managing director $500,000, while Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse will pay $400,000 instead of $200,000. It may be a “psychological blow” if one does not see a bonus, but these people are still seeing an extra $200,000. That’s an extra $200,000–in addition to an already high salary–for unproductive labor, if we are to use the Marxist definition.

What exactly do the people on Wall Street do that justify these high salaries in the first place? It is not as if these men and women are doing anything Earth shattering such as looking for a way to end world hunger or finding a treatment to cure cancer or AIDS or helping the poor. We tend to forget that this country was built on the labor of millions such as consctuction workers who build homes and roads, or teachers who educate people, or farmers who grow the food we eat, yet they are not paid nearly as handsomely as those who work on Wall Street. Rather, the “Zeros” are concerned with only making a profit for their companies.

It baffles me why there will be “a lot of panic” if the “Zeros” don’t see a bonus even though they are going to be paid an extra $200,000 anyway–that is their bonus, it’s just not going to be called a bonus, and they can still engage in conspicuous consumption. There are more people who are worse off. There are many families in this country who don’t have enough money to eat a proper meal each day. There are many more men and women living in poverty who are working 60 plus hours a week for a fraction of the salaries that only a few people make on Wall Street. There are millions of children who are malnourished. There are millions who cannot afford healthcare. There are millions who are unemployed. There are millions who are starving. There are millions living below the poverty level. For those people, they have a right to panic because they are fighting just to survive.

For the so-call new “Zeros” out there, there’s really nothing new about them. The “Zeros” have existed for a quite a while. Just look at their compensation packages, and you’ll see five zeroes, at the very least.

One thought on “Zero-Sum Bonus

  1. I could even argue that the zeros actually hurt the economy and worsen human life. Follow me through this line of thinking.
    We as a world have the technology and arable land to produce enough food for every human’s healthy consumption, but we do not. Feeding everyone is not a matter of production but a matter of distribution. So why can’t we get the currently overproduced food supply into everyone’s hands? Well, investment bankers allocate credit, liquidity, and investment to producers, retailers, and markets that will pay the most for food. So the money behind food production and distribution is managed by profit seeking zeros that are not concerned with selling into markets with little demand to raise prices or little credit worthiness. Investment bankers even go one step further and encourage distribution of food into markets where spoilage, over consumption, and waste exist because this is where the most money can be made. This capitalist process effectively takes the oversupply of food and allocates it into waste rather than allocating it to people that are hungry.

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